Why not reinforce the good?

We've all been there: That moment when your kid falls and gets scraped up or breaks a bone, and out comes what's always on the tip of your tongue: "I'm such a bad mom." Or Christmas time comes around, and once again in discussing with friends how all the shopping is going, someone shakes their head and says "I'm so broke" and takes another sip of wine. Maybe it's in front of the buffet table, and all you can manage to eek out between bites of crab cake is "I just have no willpower."

These are our self-made stereotypes. The stories we tell. Our shadow beliefs, our self-deprecating humor, our snarky sides coming out so that we can then say "It's funny 'cuz it's true." But this is terrible. These are the messages we're sending out into the universe, the community, the ether, wherever and everywhere. I just read a quote the other day that so pertains to this blog post: "Your perception creates your beliefs. And your beliefs create your behaviors. And your behaviors produce your experience" (Neal Donald Walsh). Even if taken with a grain of salt, if one iota of you really thinks you're a bad mom, the tendency in human nature is to keep doing things that make you think you're a bad mom (even though real "bad moms" are very few and far between, in all sincerity). And if you're always complaining about how broke you are, guess what? Your mind literally — neurologically — becomes wired to commit acts of behavior that reinforce your perceived nature of overspending, not saving and always living paycheck to paycheck. And of course — as we all know — living with the mentality of having no willpower when it comes to dieting (or spending, again) creates a chain reaction of scenarios, events and repetitive motions wherein you will keep acting as if you have no willpower. You will eat 8 cookies instead of 2. You will finish all the ice cream. You will have bites of this, bits of that, try this, a sip of that and at the end of the night you will feel bloated and regretful.

So it hit me the other day, as blog post ideas often do:

Why aren't we reinforcing any GOOD "I'm always this" sayings or "I always do that good thing" phrases?

Need an example? I know it can be hard to toot your own horn without feeling like a jerk. So if you can't think of anything good you habitually do, say or think, ask a friend or family member to describe you in a few words. Ask your mate what he or she likes about you. It could be as simple as "I always give people the benefit of the doubt." Or "I always pray when I close my eyes and lie down to rest." Maybe something like "I always start my day off with a piece of fresh fruit." When you remind yourself of the good things you do — even if it's just one good thing, to start — it's easier to start doing other good things. You set yourself up to be this genuine, good, honest person, and you end up doing genuine, good, honest things.

I know I'm sort of skipping past Christmas here, but New Year's is coming and if you're anything like I used to be you're already crafting elaborate resolutions, swearing off sugar, joining the gym and promising to clean the house more often (or...something like that). So now is a GREAT time to make this subtle mind shift and treat yourself better. I hate to say "don't be so negative," so I won't. Try to be more positive. I once heard in the business world that you should never say anything disparaging about yourself — ever — that you should always frame or (yuck) "spin" any mistakes or pitfalls in your skill set in such a way that your value is never diminished as an employee or service provider. And while I think it's important to be authentic and own up when you snap at someone, apologize when necessary, et cetera, that bit about diminishing your value actually has some, well, value. You are not defined by the time you locked the whole family out of the house and you had to spend the night at a hotel that was never, ever included in the monthly budget. You are not the pizza you ordered for dinner and polished off with greasy fingers. We are all complex creatures, but if we focus on the positive it's a lot easier to keep rising higher.

Lift yourself up. Lift others up. Speak kind words; do kind acts. In all you do there is a bottom line, and it IS possible for that bottom line to veer more toward rainbows and unicorns rather than dark and twisty.

I know it can be hard, even around Christmas, to purposefully choose the rainbows and unicorns. But resisting the tendency to continue practicing old patterns even once will wake you up to how good it feels, and a new path can be forged the next time and the next and the next. Jean Stockdale tells a story in her book about how her dogs wore down the grass between the house and her husband's office on the edge of their property. They could have walked in a straight line, but for some reason, habitually, the dogs wore a cockeyed path between the two structures, and from all of the repetitive motion the grass never grew along that customary crooked line. In the same way, the more you choose to reinforce a positive habit or characteristic in your life, the more it becomes solid. It takes. It sticks, and any other wayward steps here and there don't make a dent where your new path lies.

Take the opportunity today to start. Don't wait until the New Year. Take the proverbial road less traveled and make it the one you turn to from now on, time and time again.

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